Reporting Shane Kitzman
The nadir of Brett Draxler’s golf career arrived Sept. 8, 2013.
The junior scored an 87 while on St. John’s second team — he’s well aware weekend warriors can replicate such a round.
“It was terrible… the worst round I’ve shot,” he conceded.
Yet one week later he spectacularly shaved off 19 strokes, carding a 68.
Even more stunning: the former second-tier swinger suddenly became the MIAC’s best on Oct. 7, finishing just two-over par through the 54-hole conference championships to take the title, boosting his team to the league crown, too.
“Sounds cliché, but I just took a look in the mirror and said, ‘It’s time to start performing the way you know how to,’” he said. “I’m even more excited we got the title as a team and are automatically going to nationals in the spring.”
When standout MIAC athletes talk about the professional realm, it’s hard not to be cynical about their chances.
But considering the exponential leap the Plymouth, Minn., product showed just this past autumn, it’d be foolish to guess where his potential plateaus.
“My first goal is to turn pro,” said the global business leadership major. “I want to move to Arizona after college and pursue playing golf.”
Summers during Draxler’s formative years were spent on the par 3 executive course at Baker National in Medina, that is if he wasn’t traveling and playing in junior PGA tournaments. Even before attending Benilde-St. Margaret’s, he had honed in on the most crucial aspect of the game.
“A lot of kids like to hit the ball far, but I enjoyed putting – that’s how I spent most of my time,” he said. “My grandpa (Dewey Kundinger) always told me, ‘You drive for show, and putt for dough.’”
Thanks to his father, Tom, and his late maternal grandfather, golf became the only game that mattered. Draxler twice finished as conference player of the year for the Red Knights.
But it wasn’t until becoming a Johnnie did he reach the next gear.
“There are just more opportunities here,” he said. “I didn’t play much in the fall in high school because golf was a spring sport. I put more time into it now than I did then.”
Draxler credits having two All-American teammates in Casey Vangsness and Drew Lynch to help push his progress. The self-proclaimed course manager, who values hitting fairways rather than tearing it off the tee, even has his reading material revolve around the greens.
“I read mental game books, like ‘Your 15th Club’ by Bob Rotella,” said Draxler, who has spent the last five summers working at Woodhill Country Club in Wayzata, working nearly every role. “It’s all about how you’re supposed to think on the course. It really helps.”
Though it’s still months away, Draxler’s already eying the NCAA D-III Championships in North Carolina come May 2014. That, and a post-college career in the sunny southwest.
“I would live with my grandma (in Arizona), and play on mini-tours to get my start to get to that big stage,” he said. “If it doesn’t work out, I have a degree as well.”